Boston Celtics Unprepared, Unready Against Milwaukee Bucks

Kelly Olynyk has been getting more of an opportunity recently, despite the team's poor play. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
Kelly Olynyk has been getting more of an opportunity recently, despite the team's poor play. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports /

The Boston Celtics have Jared Sullinger back.

Sullinger made his return from a supposedly season-ending foot injury and came out onto the floor Friday night to the roars of the Celtics fans. But Brad Stevens said beforehand that Sullinger would be restricted to a few minutes of play due to his continual weight problems and lack of readiness.

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Well, maybe Stevens should have restricted a few more players Friday night for their lack of readiness. Instead, he played 11 players in the fourth quarter and let a game where Boston led for most of the time slip away. Brad Stevens may be one of the best in-game coaches in the NBA and Celtics fans should be delighted to have him. But he still has some ways to improve.

The Milwaukee Bucks have a 6-12 record since trading for Michael Carter-Williams, and it is easy to understand why. The Bucks do not have a lot of good offensive options. Khris Middleton has emerged to be the best scoring threat out of their starters. Middleton is a good player and can expect a nice payday this summer, but he’s not a “best option on the team” scorer.

But that Bucks team still managed to shoot better than 50 percent from the field Friday night and 58.3 percent over the last three quarters. It is one thing to see John Henson go 5-for-5 from the field, because the Celtics just do not have good defensive big men. But it is another for O.J. Mayo to go wild in the first half and score 24 points off the bench.

Since the Celtics do not have a real rim protector, much of their great defense in the second half of the season has come down to effort on the part of Marcus Smart, Avery Bradley, and their wing players. That effort was just not there Friday night. Mayo beat Bradley repeatedly off of backdoor cuts and Milwaukee just got to the basket and the paint whenever they desired. They finished with 62 points in the paint.

On the offensive end, this Celtics team suffers from too many inconsistent players. Evan Turner is the big example. After grabbing his third triple-double of the season on Wednesday, Turner scored just six points on seven shots. Celtics fans know that is just how Turner is at this point. The same applies to Kelly Olynyk, who hit just one of his five attempted jump shots tonight.

There were some positives. Isaiah Thomas scored 23 points on 12 shots as he recovers from his back injury, and Jonas Jerebko also played well. There were also certain questionable calls from the referees Friday night against the Celtics which helped stymie a Boston rally towards the end of the game.

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  • But the Celtics did not lose this game because of the refs. They lost this game because they failed to execute their game plan, and because Brad Stevens utilized some interesting rotations late in the game (i.e., Phil Pressey in the fourth quarter.)

    This team has some major weaknesses, as is appropriate for a team fighting just to get in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. And the result of an inconsistent, mediocre team is that you have bad losses like this right when you cannot afford them.

    And this loss is a serious blow to Boston’s playoff hopes, especially with Brooklyn’s victory over the Toronto Raptors Friday night. The Celtics are a half-game behind eighth seed Miami and 1.5 games behind seventh seed Brooklyn with six games left. Furthermore, Miami holds the tiebreaker over the Celtics.

    In order to make the playoffs, Boston must win at least four and preferably five of their remaining six games. But two of them are against Cleveland and two are against the Raptors.

    Teams with worse odds have managed to make the NBA playoffs and the Celtics must not give up. But the time for mistakes is gone. Either the Celtics will surge and make the playoffs on a winning streak … or they start preparing the fishing rods.

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